Elena Chabo – UCAS Undergraduate

Elena Chabo's winning essay, on her passion for studying archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, from the 2013 UCAS/Times writing competition.

20, from Brightlingsea, Essex

Studying Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh

Photograph courtesy of Ella Brooks, Viella B Photography

Archaeology seems to be an adventure every child dreams of, but never actually pursues. The Indiana Jones costume is swept into the attic somewhere around puberty and that dream is forgotten. When I tell people what I'm studying, in a flash they transform back into that mud covered ten year old, running down the garden path proudly brandishing a chunk of B&Q plant pot. I think it's the childlike excitement, genuine interest and unashamed envy others respond with, that makes me realise just how lucky I am. And believe me it took a while. I never had that one subject I was crazy about in school; I strode through clutching good grades, broad subjects, extracurriculars and absolutely no clue what I wanted. When asked why I chose Archaeology, my well rehearsed 'It began with an A? Beginning of the prospectus, had to pick something' response, is uncomfortably close to the truth. 

Somehow I found myself in Edinburgh starting an Anthropology and Archaeology Degree, unsure how I'd got there. I took Art History, Classics and even Business outside modules. I dropped Anthropology, tried a week of Criminology, no idea where I was headed but devouring everything. Then I found my hook. Iceman Otzi died 3300 BC, his frozen body so well preserved I can tell you red deer was his last supper. His pelvis shows he liked long hilly walks and his skin bears over fifty tattoos; did HE consider how they'd look at seventy? Or for that matter, at five thousand three hundred and thirteen? Relating brought it alive! Ancient Greek Clay tablets are found inscribed with prayers for everything from a neighbour's noisy dog dying to an ex-lovers new boyfriend dumping them: grumblings you could hear at any bus stop.

I was chosen to give a talk to fifty visiting under tens and when I finished almost every little hand shot into the air, eager to hear more about heading to Cyprus, trowel in hand! Hunting for remains and evidence, piecing together clues! I discovered Roman Bones! A Bronze Age hoard! I'm living life with all the wonder of those endless days of adventure and orange squash that are so easily forgotten. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. We have a constant desire to know what we want to do, what we want to be. But a lot of the time we don't, and that's ok. 'Finding yourself' at university is more than Che Guevara posters and regrettable piercings. It's taken university for someone to spot my ADHD, finally giving me the chance to discover my full potential. You're surrounded by the forefront of so many wonderful disciplines! When you give it your all and study amongst incredible minds, that childhood excitement takes hold. It's there plain as day in the face of anyone studying something they love. If you don't follow your childhood dream into a degree, find your footing, put the work in, and follow your degree into a childhood dream.

UCAS/Times writing competition article